Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Edward Moffitt: Mining Manager, Hardware Store Operator, and University Regent [otd 8/22]

Wallace businessman Edward H. Moffitt was born August 22, 1845 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, now a part of Pittsburgh. Around 1858, the family moved to Illinois, where Edward grew to young manhood. In January 1864, he joined the Second Illinois Cavalry.
Union Cavalry Chasing Irregulars. Harper’s Weekly Illustration.

Far from the “glamor” of major battles, Edward’s regiment still saw almost continuous marching and much fighting, from northern Florida into western Texas. Long after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox, they chased detached units of the Confederate Army and bands of irregulars. Edward mustered out at San Antonio in January, 1866, and returned home to Illinois.

Moffitt ran a grocery store for two years before heading west to try his hand in the gold fields. He prospected in the Dakotas and Utah, then spent over a decade in the Colorado mines. Then, in late 1879, Edward joined the rush into the lead-silver mines along the Wood River [blog, April 26].

In 1884, however, Moffitt decided the Coeur d’Alene mining districts had greater potential. He located first at Eagle City, on Prichard Creek, where he opened the camp’s first meat market and invested in various mining claims. However, within two years, he became associated with the new town of Murray, located about three miles to the southeast. (Eagle City soon became a ghost town.)

Then, in 1887, Edward recognized even greater potential in the mines around the new town of Wallace, and moved there. Moffitt remained heavily invested in mining properties, but it’s likely he also moved his meat market to Wallace.

At about this time, the consortium led by Amasa Campbell [blog April 6] began investing in Coeur d’Alene mines. Over the next few years, Edward joined several of their ventures. Thus, when the group acquired and re-organized the Coeur d’Alene Hardware Company, Moffitt became the firm’s Secretary-Treasurer. Campbell was Vice-President. An Illustrated History published in 1899 said, “They deal in mining and mill supplies and all kinds of general hardware and have one of the most extensive hardware stores in the west.”
Wallace, ca 1898. Illust-North.

As part of the Campbell consortium, Moffitt also owned shares in the Standard and Hecla mines. In 1899, he became General Manager for their properties throughout the Coeur d’Alene area. Two years later, his duties expanded in an unlikely way. After the timekeeper at the Standard Mine was shot and killed, Edward “gathered a posse and set put in pursuit, eventually capturing the fugitive.” (Convicted and sentenced to hang, the murderer got off with a life sentence upon appeal.)

For a time, Moffitt served as an officer of three or four mining companies, as well as a Director of the First National Bank of Wallace. In 1901, a report in the Idaho Statesman (July 20, 1901) identified him as a Delegate from Wallace to an International Mining Congress, held in Boise.

Moffit was an active member of the Masonic Lodge in Wallace, and served on the school board there for many years. In 1908, he was appointed as a Regent of the University of Idaho, becoming President of the Board in 1911. He retired from hands-on business and service activities a few years after that, and passed away in February 1920.
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North] [Illust-State]

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